Sunday, August 27, 2006


"In the history of the world there have been thousands of kings and emperors who called themselves 'their highnesses,' 'their majesties,' and 'their exalted majesties' and so on. They shone for a brief moment, and as quickly disappeared. But Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day." -H.G. Wells

I can't draw the line exactly where my knowledge of Asoka is based in history and where it is based in myth. Here is my history/mythology:
Asoka was a Prince and general in the Mauriyan army who rose to power until he was sent into exile in nearby Kalinga through the influence of his eldest brother, Susima, who feared his power. Later, when a revolt broke out in the country, he was called back. A number of bloody events occured that led to his enthronement. Asoka then set off to broaden his domain. At its greatest, his empire stretched through all of what is now India, to Iran and Afghanistan. It was when he turned again to Kalinga that his life changed. After he conquered the country and united his empire, Asoka realized the brutality of his life and that he had won nothing. He saw that there were no true prizes for an emperor. He had seen another side of life through his Buddhist wife and time in a Buddhist monastery, which manifested at this pivotal time. Asoka began building stupas all over India, and set out in search of the historical locations of Buddha's life. In Sarnath he built the Dhamekh stupa, marking the spot where the Buddha gave his first sermon.
According to legend, near the end of his life, Asoka gave up his kindgom, adopted the alms bowl and ochre robes, and retired into the forest, leaving behind a great legacy for the world.

The Film- 'Asoka-only the dead have seen the end of war'
The film Ashoka begins by stating that liberties have been taken and that the film is not meant to be historically accurate. One would guess that the many times that Ashoka and friends begin dancing and singing along with half of the town might be this stated liberty. While the film is entertaining and does show a transformation, I would not recommend it or my historical/mythological biography above as a definitive source of Asoka. The purpose in this post is simply this: If you would like to watch Ashoka to learn about the historical Asoka, better to save your money.

Asoka Sources
The Palm Leaf: Type 'Asoka' in Search Box
The Edicts of King Ashoka



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